Volume 11, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1871-1340
  • E-ISSN: 1871-1375
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes


When English-speaking children first attempt to produce deverbal compound words (like muffin maker), they often misorder the noun and the verb (e.g., make-muffin, maker muffin, or making-muffin). The purpose of the present studies was to test Usage-based and Distributional Morphology-based explanations of children’s errors. In Study 1, we compared three to four-year old children’s interpretations of Verb-Noun (e.g., push-ball) to Verb-erNoun (e.g., pusher-ball). In Study 2, we compared three- to five-year old children’s interpretations of Verb-erNoun (e.g., pusher-ball) to Noun-Verb-er (e.g., ball pusher). Results from both studies suggest that while preschool children’s understanding of deverbal compounds is still developing, they already show some sensitivity to word ordering within compounds. We argue that these results are interpretable within Usage-based approaches.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Abbot-Smith, K. , Lieven, E. & Tomasello, M
    (2001) What preschool children do and do not do with ungrammatical word orders. Cognitive Development, 16, 679–692. doi: 10.1016/S0885‑2014(01)00054‑5
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0885-2014(01)00054-5 [Google Scholar]
  2. (2008) Graded representations in the acquisition of English and German transitive constructions. Cognitive Development, 23, 48–66. doi: 10.1016/j.cogdev.2007.11.002
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cogdev.2007.11.002 [Google Scholar]
  3. Abbot-Smith, K. , & Tomasello, M
    (2010) The influence of frequency and semantic similarity on how children learn grammar. First Language, 30, 79–101. doi: 10.1177/0142723709350525
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0142723709350525 [Google Scholar]
  4. Brisard, F. , Laarman, E. , & Nicoladis, E
    (2008) Clausal order and the acquisition of Dutch deverbal compounds. Morphology, 18, 143–166. doi: 10.1007/s11525‑009‑9127‑8
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11525-009-9127-8 [Google Scholar]
  5. Clark, E.V.
    (1981) Lexical innovations: How children learn to create new words. In W. Deustch (Ed.), The child’s construction of language (pp. 299–328). New York, NY: Academic Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Clark, E
    (1993) The lexicon in acquisition. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511554377
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511554377 [Google Scholar]
  7. Clark, E.V. , & Barron, B.J.S
    (1988) A thrower button or a button thrower? Children’s judgments of grammatical and ungrammatical compound nouns. Linguistics, 26, 3–19. doi: 10.1515/ling.1988.26.1.3
    https://doi.org/10.1515/ling.1988.26.1.3 [Google Scholar]
  8. Clark, E.V. , Gelman, S.A. , & Lane, N.M.
    (1985) Compound nouns and category structure in young children. Child Development, 56, 84–94. doi: 10.2307/1130176
    https://doi.org/10.2307/1130176 [Google Scholar]
  9. Clark, E.V. , Hecht, B.F. , & Mulford, R.C.
    (1986) Coining complex compounds in English: Affixes and word order in acquisition. Linguistics, 24, 7–29. doi: 10.1515/ling.1986.24.1.7
    https://doi.org/10.1515/ling.1986.24.1.7 [Google Scholar]
  10. Dunn, L.M. , & Dunn, L.M.
    (1997) Peabody picture vocabulary test (3rd ed.). Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Gamache, J. , & Schmitt, C
    (2014) Compounds, learning mechanisms, and the continuity hypothesis in language acquisition. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics, 20, 110–118.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Goldberg, A.E.
    (2003) Constructions: A new theoretical approach to language. TRENDS in Cognitive Science, 7, 219–224. doi: 10.1016/S1364‑6613(03)00080‑9
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S1364-6613(03)00080-9 [Google Scholar]
  13. (2006) Constructions at work: The nature of generalization in language. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Goldberg, A.E. , Casenhiser, D.M. , & Sethuraman, N
    (2004) Learning argument structure generalizations. Cognitive Linguistics, 15, 289–316. doi: 10.1515/cogl.2004.011
    https://doi.org/10.1515/cogl.2004.011 [Google Scholar]
  15. Lieven, E. , Behrens, H. , Speares, J. , & Tomasello, M
    (2003) Early syntactic creativity: A usage- based approach. Journal of Child Language, 30, 333–370. doi: 10.1017/S0305000903005592
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000903005592 [Google Scholar]
  16. Matthews, D. , Lieven, E. , Theakston, A. , & Tomasello, M
    (2005) The role of frequency in the acquisition of English word order. Cognitive Development, 20, 121–136. doi: 10.1016/j.cogdev.2004.08.001
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cogdev.2004.08.001 [Google Scholar]
  17. Murphy, V.A. , & Nicoladis, E
    (2006) When answer-phone makes a difference in children’s acquisition of English compounds. Journal of Child Language, 33, 677–691. doi: 10.1017/S030500090600746X
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S030500090600746X [Google Scholar]
  18. Nagpal, J. , & Nicoladis, E
    (2009) Why are Noun-Verb-er compounds so difficult for English-speaking children?The Mental Lexicon, 4, 276–301. doi: 10.1075/ml.4.2.05nag
    https://doi.org/10.1075/ml.4.2.05nag [Google Scholar]
  19. Nicoladis, E
    (2003) Cross-linguistic transfer in deverbal compounds of preschool bilingual children. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 6, 17–31. doi: 10.1017/S1366728903001019
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S1366728903001019 [Google Scholar]
  20. (2006) Preschool children’s acquisition of compounds. In G. Libben & G. Jarema (Eds.), The representation and processing of compound words (pp. 96–124). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Nicoladis, E. , & Yin, H
    (2002) The role of frequency in acquisition of English and Chinese compounds by bilingual children. In B. Skarabela , S. Fish , & A.H.J. Do (Eds.), Proceedings of the 26th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Selkirk, E.O.
    (1982) The syntax of words. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Tomasello, M
    (1992) First verbs. A case study of early grammatical development. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511527678
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511527678 [Google Scholar]
  24. (2000a) Do young children have adult syntactic competence?Cognition, 74, 209–253. doi: 10.1016/S0010‑0277(99)00069‑4
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0010-0277(99)00069-4 [Google Scholar]
  25. (2000b) First steps toward a usage-based theory of language acquisition. Cognitive Linguistics, 11, 61–82.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. (2003) Constructing a language: A Usage-Based Theory of language acquisition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): comprehension; deverbal compounds; ordering sensitivity
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error